What exactly is Art?

Isn’t it funny how one person can look at say a Jackson Pollock and be moved to tears while another (like myself) look at the same painting and snort thinking you made something similar when you were 4. Art has a different meaning for everyone.  One of many (I am sure) anthropological meanings of art is the human endeavor thought to be aesthetic and have meaning beyond simple description. Includes music, dance, sculpture, painting, drawing, stitchery, weaving, poetry, writing, woodworking, etc. A medium of expression where the individual and culture come together.

As there are many forms of art, there are different inspirations for art. And yes my dear, religion just happens to be one of the biggest (surprise, surprise). Just look at some of the old cathedrals, which I myself absolutely adore, you know, when I’m not catching on fire for being on holy ground (/sarcasm). Michelangelo is a wonderful example of religion inspiring art. Everyone has their muses (and I tend to think mine are extremely lazy or go on many vacations without me) but whatever inspires doesn’t mean all will be moved by what is created. In fact there are some “artists” who do not see what they create as art and if the culture still existed would think there was something extremely wrong with you should you happen to tell them what they have is brilliant.

I am of course talking about the Soul Catchers of the Kalabari of Nigeria. They make carvings that represent the dead for religious ceremonies so that the soul of the deceased so that the soul won’t jump into a body that already has a soul in it. They believed that mental illnesses are what happen when one body has two souls.


This is probably the most famous Kalabari sculpture. It was “stolen” by a lady who had it for quite a few years before it showed up in mainstream art. It depicts a man and his two sons, all three died in an accident together.

While we may see this as art, Kalabari sees these as hideous things not to be on display but instead buried deep into the Earth. The shamans or members of the family would wander into the forest or surrounding area and pick a spot and bury the sculpture deep into the dirt then forget about it. Unlike Westerners they don’t need a place to go to remember their passed loved ones. In face they are a little scared of the sculptures as like I mentioned, they are soul catchers and they don’t wait for a soul to be free of it’s body.

We see art everywhere. Paintings, billboards, ads, commercials and even the television shows you love to watch. Heck, my blog can be considered a form of art. Did you know that I think yearly there is an AIDS quilt made of all the people who lost their lives the past year all over the nation to AIDS and it gets displayed (or parts of it as it is huge) all over. And we will never forget 9-11 as the imagery is everywhere, for some it hurts, for others it reminds and for still others it strengthens their resolve. And of course politians will use it however they feel like using it. Which brings me to political cartoons. If you’re a friend of mine on Facebook you have seen a few of those cartoons, but they do go both ways. If you’ve ever been to a Cracker Barrel then you more in likely have seen some old ads of many things.

Even Dr. Seuss did some cartoons for World War II to bring in funding for the war. Which personally they should bring back instead of the failing system they have now.

We teach our children art at a very early age, sometimes before they are even born. We tell them stories, sing them songs, take them to museums and of course we enroll them in music lessons. Some women will place headphones on their pregnant bellies and play music (like Mozart, Brahms, and even some Evanescence) in hopes of  increasing their child’s intelligence. Not sure it works, I was one of the few who didn’t know they were pregnant until I went into labor. That however is a whole other post for a whole other blog.

As culture changes so does art. Walk through an art gallery, specially one of those big ones that has art throughout the ages and you can clearly see the changes. Also there is that fine line of art and porn. Sometimes people go a little too far in trying to ban true works of art and then there are those who uses art as an excuse to get people’s clothes off. A line that shifts as things change.

Remember, there are five parts of culture: Shared, Learned, Integrated, Transmitted and Encompassing. The big question is can you describe each?

Sorry the posts have become further apart as of late. We’re in the last two weeks of the term so I’ve been studying for finals and finishing up with assignments and making sure I have done everything possible. This Wednesday is the last lecture day in Anthropology and then the following Wednesday is the final and I have two small research papers (one in Cultural one in Linguistics  due on the same day. And no, I haven’t chosen a topic yet. I have an idea what I might write about but I haven’t really done any research on anything.

Until next time think about what you plan to do once my term is over. The next one doesn’t start until January! Hell, what am I going to do!?

Categories: Anthropology, Cultural | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

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